Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Chapter 15 THE RESEARCH BASE


There is a very small body of research on student learning about what technology is and how it relates to science and society. Most of this research relies on samples of students outside the United States, and it assesses high-school students' knowledge about the role of science and technology, as well as their attitudes toward the decision making of scientists and engineers in issues of public concern.


Even in middle school, students typically do not distinguish between an engineering model of experimentation where the goal is to produce a desirable outcome and the scientific model of experimentation where the goal is to understand the relation between causes and effects (Carey et al., 1989; Schauble et al., 1991). Some research suggests that students can understand and use the engineering model before they can the scientific model--that is, that students inevitably will think about producing desirable outcomes before they are able to do the more analytic form of thinking involved in scientific inquiry (Schauble et al., 1991).

High-school students do not distinguish between the roles of science and technology unless explicitly asked to do so (Fleming, 1987). This is evidenced, for example, by students' view that science serves the public interest. More generally, some students believe science affects society in more positive ways than does technology. That is partly because students associate science with medical research but associate technology with pollution or weapons. Students appear to understand the impact of science on technology but they do not always appreciate the impact of technology on science (Fleming, 1987).